Edible Sierra Nevada Plants


I have taken extreme care in providing accurate information in these keys, however, there is always the possibility of errors. Use these keys at your own discretion.

If you do not know how to use the keys find out now, here.

These keys have been made possible by the support of Norman F. Weeden and his book "A Sierra Nevada Flora".

To Dichotomous Key / Main Plant Index / Main Page

A Plants variously colored but never green
  B Plants growing on upper parts of other plants or trees
    C Plants thin yellow vines, on herbs - CUSCUTA (Not Edible)
    CC Plants thicker with joined stems, on trees - ARCEUTHOBIUM (Not Edible)

  BB Plants more or less erect, growing on ground
    C Stem or scale-like leaves more or less glandular pubescent; plants brownish to bright red
      D Base of stem mainly less than 2 cm thick; inflorescence more or less open
        E Plant mainly 3-10 dm high; flowers relaxed, regular - PTEROSPORA (Not Edible)
        EE Plant mainly 1-3 dm high; flowers erect, 2 lipped - OROBANCHE
      DD Base of stem mainly 3-4 cm thick; flowers dense conical cluster - SARCODES

    CC Stem and scale-like leaves glabrous
      D Stems mainly brownish, occasionally white
        E Fruit a capsule, stem densely scaly to base - BOSCHNIAKIA (Not Edible)
        EE Fruit a berry; stem with few scales below inflorescence - PLEURICOSPORA (Not Edible)
      DD Stems white or with red and white stripes
        E Stems red and white striped; leaves 2-3 cm long - ALLOTROPA (Not Edible)
        EE Stems white; leaves 1-2 cm long; rare, Fresno County - PITYOPUS (Not Edible)

AA Plants green, not primarily saprophytic or parasitic
  B Plants definitely shrubs or trees
    C Leaves compound
      D Leaves palmately compound; leaflets 4 or more
        E Plant mainly more than 2 m high; leaflets 5-10 cm long - AESCULUS
        EE Plant about 1 m high; leaflets 1-3 cm long - LUPINUS ALBIFRONS (Not Edible)
      DD Leaves 3-foliolate or pinnately compound
        E Leaves many times divided into small segments, fern-like
          F Leaves mainly 3-pinnate; fruit an akene - CHAMAEBATIA (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves mainly 2-pinnate; fruit a follicle; E. Sierra - CHAMAEBATIARIA (Not Edible)
        EE Leaves once divided into several conspicuous leaflets
          F Leaves opposite
            G Leaflets mainly 3
              H Leaflets glabrous; margin finely serrate - STAPHYLEA (Not Edible)
              HH Leaflets pubescent; margin coarsely serrate - ACER NEGUNDO
            GG Leaflets mainly 5 or more
              H Twigs with large spongy pith; fruit a berry - SAMBUCUS
              HH Twigs woody throughout: fruit dry, winged - FRAXINUS
          FF Leaves alternate
            G Stems or leaves with prickles
              H Stems with prickles - ROSA
              HH Leaf margins spiny - BERBERIS
            GG Plants not prickly
              H Leaflets entire, revolute - POTENTILLA FRUITICOSA
              HH Leaflets serrate
                I Leaflets 7-13 - SORBUS
                II Leaflets 3 - RHUS - Poison Oak (Not Edible)

    CC Leaves simple
      D Leaves opposite
        E Leaves with stipules; stipules with corky bases - CEANOTHUS
        EE Leaves without stipules
          F Leaves with margins curled under
            G Large shrub; dry habitats below 4000' - CARPENTERIA (Not Edible)
            GG Subshrub, 1-2 dm high; wet habitats above 7000' - KALMIA (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves plane, margins not curled under
            G Leaves thick, leathery, evergreen; mainly below 7000'
              H Leaves 2-6 cm long, petioled - GARRYA
              HH Leaves 1-2.5 cm long, subsessile - PAXISTIMA (Not Edible)
            GG Leaves usually deciduous, thin; widespread
              H Leaves palmately lobed into 3 or more divisions - ACER
              HH Leaves usually without lobes
                I Flowers irregular, the petals fused together at least at base
                  J Flowers in pairs on a conspicuous peduncle; fruit fleshy - LONICERA
                  JJ Flowers on individual stalks (pedicels); fruit dry - PENSTEMON (Not Edible)
                II Flowers with 4 or more identical lobes
                  J Large bush or tree over 1 m high
                    K Leaves aromatic; flowers solitary, reddish - CALYCANTHUS (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves not aromatic; flowers clustered, white or with white bracts
                      L Petals 5 mm long, occasionally subtended by white bracts 40-60 mm long; moist habitats - CORNUS
                      LL Petals 10-15 mm long; dry slopes and canyons - PHILADELPHUS (Not Edible)
                  JJ Low shrub, less than 1 m high
                    K Leaves 3- to 5-veined from base;below 4500' - VIBURNUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves 1-veined from base; widespread
                      L Leaves strongly serrate; fruit a dry capsule - JAMESIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaves often mitten-shaped, not prominently serrate; fruit a white berry - SYMPHORICARPOS (Not Edible)
      DD Leaves alternate
        E Leaves palmately lobed (sometimes only 3-toothed as in PURSHIA and ARTEMISIA)
          F Lobes broad, more than 1 cm wide at base
            G Leaves stellate-pubescent beneath
              H Flowers small, in terminal clusters - PHYSOCARPUS (Not Edible)
              HH Flowers large, more or less solitary; flowers and leaves usually on short spur-like branchlets - FREMONTODENDRON (Not Edible)
            GG Leaves glabrous or with simple hairs
              H Leaves 10-15 cm wide; fruit raspberry-like - RUBUS PARVIFLORUS
              HH Leaves less than 8 cm wide; fruit often spiny - RIBES
          FF Lobes less than 1 cm wide at base
            G Lobes linear to needle-like, usually more than 3 - LEPTODACTYLON (Not Edible)
            GG Lobes broader, 3 sometimes more teeth at leaf apex
              H Leaves with sage-like odor, margin plane - ARTEMISIA
              HH Leaves more or less odorless, margins curled under - PURSHIA (Not Edible)
        EE Leaves not lobed or pinnately so
          F Leaves scale- or needle-like; shrub usually under 5 dm high
            G Leaves more or less triangular, about 0.5 cm long - CASSIOPE (Not Edible)
            GG Leaves needle-like, 1-2 cm long - PHYLLODOCE (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves mainly broader; plant usually taller
            G Bark red to red-brown and usually peeling off in thin layers
              H Plant a tree; leaves over 4 cm long - ARBUTUS
              HH Plant a shrub; leaves less than 3 cm long - ARCTOSTAPHYLOS
            GG Bark not reddish or if so then not exfoliating
              H Leaf margins conspicuously cut, lobed or toothed
                I Leaf-blades toothed only on distal more or less half
                  J Leaves 4-8 cm long, oblanceolate; flowers without petals - MYRICA (Not Edible)
                  JJ Leaves mainly less than 4 cm long, mainly rounder; flowers mainly with petals
                    K Flowers 1-8 per cluster
                      L Flowers without petals; fruit dry with a 2-4 cm long plume - CERCOCARPUS BETULOIDES (Not Edible)
                      LL Petals white, conspicuous; fruit a fleshy berry - AMELANCHIER
                    KK Flowers many per cluster
                      L Flowers white; leaves less than 2 cm long - HOLODISCUS
                      LL Flowers red to violet; leaves mainly more than 2 cm long - SPIRAEA
                II Leaf-blades cut, lobed, or toothed to base
                  J Flowers in dense catkins (cylindrical clusters), without petals; fruit dry
                    K Fruit nut-like or a woody cone, not disintegrating before falling
                      L Nut with a cap, acorn-like; leaf margins various
                        M Cap of nut covered with thick hairs; leaves prominently and regularly pinnately veined - LITHOCARPUS
                        MM Cap of nut with smooth scales; leaf veins usually obscure - QUERCUS
                      LL Nut without a cap or fruit cone-like; leaves doubly serrate
                        M Fruit a woody cone about 2 cm long; often trees - ALNUS (Not Edible)
                        MM Fruit a nut about 1.5 cm long; shrubs - CORYLUS
                    KK Fruit a capsule or non-woody cone
                      L Mainly shrubs with oblong leaves; buds covered by single scale - SALIX
                      LL Usually trees with roundish leaves; buds covered by several scales
                        M Bark smooth, dark bronze; petioles about 1 cm long - BETULA
                        MM Bark usually rough in age, lighter; petioles 2.5 cm long - POPULUS
                  JJ Flowers solitary or in more or less open clusters; petals mainly present; fruit usually fleshy
                    K Plant a low subshrub less than 1 m high
                      L Flowers on naked stems 4-10 cm long; leaves spatulate - PRIMULA
                      LL Flowers on peduncles less than 2 cm long; leaves more or less ovate
                        M Corolla urn-shaped; wet meadows, mainly above 5000' - VACCINIUM
                        MM Corolla open, the petals separate, dry flats below 6000' - CEANOTHUS DIVERSIFOLIUS
                    KK Plant an erect shrub or tree, more than 1 m high
                      L Fruit dry; leaves usually 3-veined from base - CEANOTHUS
                      LL Fruit fleshy; leaves pinnately veined
                        M Fruit 1 seeded; inflorescence not umbellate - PRUNUS (Not Edible)
                        MM Fruit 2-3 seeded; inflorescence mainly umbellate - RHAMNUS
              HH Leaf margins entire
                I Flowers small, more or less sessile in many-flowered compact clusters
                  J Flowers without petals
                    K Fruit a spiny bur; branchlets more or less rigid - CASTANOPSIS
                    KK Fruit a small seed; branchlets slender and flexible - SALIX
                  JJ Flowers with petals
                    K Leaves 3-veined from base; flowers in an elongate spike - PETROPHYTUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves 1-veined from base; flowers in an involucrate head
                      L Phyllaries imbricate - HAPLOPAPPUS (Not Edible)
                      LL Phyllaries in vertical rows - CHRYSOTHAMNUS (Not Edible)
                II Flowers pedicelled; inflorescence not compact
                  J Leaves more or less linear, tufted on spur-like branchlets
                    K Leaves with revolute margins - CEROCARPUS LEDIFLOIUS (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves ,plane, rigid - ADENOSTOMA
                  JJ Leaves broader, evenly disposed along stems
                    K Petals mainly 1-4 cm long; leaves over 2 cm long
                      L Leaves roundish, cordate at base - CERCIS
                      LL Leaves oblong, never cardate
                        M Leaves subsessile; flowers solitary - DENDROMECON (Not Edible)
                        MM Leaves on 4-8 mm long petioles; flowers clustered - RHODODENDRON (Not Edible)
                    KK Petals under 1 cm long; leaves often less than 2 cm long
                      L Flowers urn-shaped; wet habitats
                        M Leaves under 3 cm long; flowers solitary or in small clusters - VACCINIUM
                        MM Leaves 2-6 cm long; inflorescence a many-flowered cluster
                          N Inflorescence elongate, about 10 cm long - LEUCOTHOE (Not Edible)
                          NN Inflorescence dome-shaped, about as long as wide - LEDUM (Not Edible)
                      LL Petals separate to base or lacking; dry habitats
                        M Center of branches hollow with cross walls - OSMARONIA (Not Edible, Tastes Bad)
                        MM Branches woody throughout
                          N Leaves usually 3-veined from base; inflorescence a panicle - CEANOTHUS
                          NN Leaves pinnately veined; inflorescence mainly umbellate - RHAMNUS

  BB Plants herbaceous or only slightly woody or woody vines
    C Leaves compound into definite leaflets or dissected and fern-like (if leaf-blade continuous between segments go to CC
      D Leaves palmately compound into more than 3 leaflets
        E Leaflet margins entire
          F Leaves opposite appearing like tufts of linear leaves - LINANTHUS (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves alternate or basal
            G Flowers irregular, pea-like; widespread - LUPINUS (Not Edible)
            GG Flowers regular; Placer County north - DENTARIA TENELLA
        EE Leaflet margins serrate or lobed
          F Leaflets less than 1.5 cm long, obovate - TRIFOLIUM LEMMONII
          FF Leaflets more than 2 cm long, oblong - POTENTILLA
      DD Leaves trifoliolate or pinnately compound or dissected
        E Stems woody at base or throughout; often vines
          F Plants vine-like
            G Stems with prickles - RUBUS
            GG Stems smooth
              H Petioles clasping or twining; leaflets 3-7 - CLEMATIS (Not Edible)
              HH Petioles straight; leaflets 3 - RHUS - Poison Oak (Not Edible)
          FF Plants erect, usually branched above
            G Stems with prickles - ROSA
            GG Stems smooth
              H Leaves large and fern-like, aromatic; low bush - CHAMAEBATIA (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves divided into 3-17 distinct leaflets - SAMBUCUS
        EE Stems herbaceous
          F Leaves twice or more compound
            G Flowers grouped in umbells; petioles mainly sheathing stem at their base
              H Inflorescence a raceme of simple umbels; below 5000' - ARALIA (Not Edible)
              HH Inflorescence an umbel or compound umbel - UMBELLIFERAE
            GG Flowers not grouped in umbells; petioles rarely sheathing
              H Plant submersed
                I Leaves bearing small bladder-like traps - UTRICULARIA (Not Edible)
                II Leaves without traps; petals conspicuous - RANUNCULUS (Most Not Edible)
              HH Plant terrestrial
                I Flowers solitary, not in groups
                  J Petals sccate or spurred
                    K Flowers 4-merous, both outer petals saccate or spurred - DICENTRA (Not Edible)
                    KK Flowers 5-merous
                      L All petals with 1-3 cm long spurs - AQUILEGIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Only 1 petal spurred;spur 5-10mm long - VIOLA
                  JJ Petals flat, not saccate or spurred
                    K Stem leaves opposite or usually whorled - ANEMONE (Not Edible)
                    KK Stem leaves alternate
                      L Sepals 2, falling early; petals golden yellow - ESCHSCHOLZIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Sepals 5, persistent; petals white - LIMNANTHES (Not Edible)
                II Flowers variously grouped
                  J Leaves with sage-like odor
                    K Inflorescence elongate; flowers yellow - ARTEMISIA NORVEGICA
                    KK Inflorescence dome-shaped to flat; flowers white - ACHILLEA
                  JJ Leaves without sage-like odor
                    K Petals over 1 cm long, at least one spurred at base
                      L Outer petals both saccate or spurred at base - DICENTRA (Not Edible)
                      LL One outer petal spurred, the other not - CORYDALIS (Not Edible)
                    KK Petals over 1 cm long or lacking, never spurred
                      L Leaves mainly more than 10 cm long; ultimate leaflets broad, mainly more than 1 cm wide
                        M Petioles not clasping at base; fruit a red berry - ACTAEA (Not Edible)
                        MM Petioles clasping at base; fruit greenish, not berry-like - THALICTRUM (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaves less than 10 cm long; ultimate leaflets narrow, less than 1 cm wide
                        M Flowers in heads
                          N Heads globose with few or no bracts - CYMOPTERUS
                          NN Heads more or less cylindric, subtended by many green bracts
                            O Leaves 2-3 times ternate - ERIGERON COMPOSITUS (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves bipinnate - CHAENACTIS (Not Edible)
                        MM Flowers in open racemes - DESCURAINIA PINNATA (Not Edible)
          FF Leaves once pinnate or trifoliate; the segments often serrtae or lobed
            G Leaflets always 3
              H Stem leaves opposite or whorled - ANEMONE QUINQUIFLOIA (Not Edible)
              HH Stem leaves alternate
                I Inflorescence an umbel or compound umbel
                  J Leaflets 15-40 cm long - HERACLEUM
                  JJ Leaflets less than 5 cm long
                    K Leaflets less than 2 cm long, never lobed; flowers irregular - LOTUS (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaflets usually over 2 cm long, lobed; flowers regular
                      L Stem present, leafy; dry, open forest - SANICULA (Not Edible)
                      LL Stem none, leaves basal; usually moist habitats - OROGENIA
                II Inflorescence various, never umbellate
                  J Plants more or less aquatic; leaflets entire - MENYANTHES
                  JJ Plants terrestrial; leaflets serrate
                    K Flowers irregular, grouped in dense clusters
                      L Leaflets about 1 cm long - TRIFOLIUM
                      LL Leaflets 3-8 cm long - PSORALEA (Not Edible)
                    KK Flowers regular, solitary or in open clusters
                      L Stem none; leaves in tufts connected by stolons - FRAGARIA
                      LL Leafy stems present; stolons none
                        M Petals white; pistil 2 lobed; Plumas County north - SUKSDORFIA (Not Edible)
                        MM Petals yellow; pistils 5 to many; widespread
                          N Petals shiny above; moist habitats below 8000' - RANUNCULUS (Most Not Edible)
                          NN Petals dull above; dry, rocky habitats, 6000' to 12,000' - SIBBALDIA (Not Edible)
            GG Leaflets mainly more than 3
              H Stem leaves opposite or whorled
                I Plants aquatic; stem leaves whorled - MYRIOPHYLLUM (Not Edible)
                II Plants terrestrial; stem leaves opposite
                  J Leaves 3-8 cm long; 5000' to 10,000' - VALERIANA
                  JJ Leaves 1-5 cm long; mainly below 5000' - ERODIUM
              HH Stem leaves alternate or leaves all basal
                I Petioles dilated at base, winged, or leaves with stipules
                  J Petioles dilated at base or winged, often sheathing or clasping stem; stipules seldom present
                    K Inflorescence never umbelate; dilated petiole-bases usually not sheathing stem
                      L Petals separate to base, yellow or tinged purplish; pistils many
                        M Petals shiny yellow above - RANUNCULUS (Most Not Edible)
                        MM Petals yellow to purplish, never shiny above - GEUM
                      LL Petals conspicuously united at base, blue to purple; pistil 1
                        M Herbage not aromatic; below 4500' - PHOLISTOMA (Not Edible)
                        MM Herbage aromatic; above 10,000' - POLEMONIUM EXIMIUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Inflorescence an umbel or compound umbel; petiole-bases usually conspicuously sheathing stem
                      L Umbels compact; above 10,000' - PODISTERA (Not Edible, RARE)
                      LL Inflorescence a loose compound umbel; mainly below 10,000'
                        M Leaflets linear, entire - PERIDERIDIA
                        MM Leaflets lonceolate to ovate, serrate; wet habitats
                          N Fruit with lateral wings; involucre bracts 1-2 - OXYPOLIS (Not Edible)
                          NN Fruit without wings; involucre bracts several
                            O Leaflets irregularly serrate or lobed - BERULA (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaflets more or less regular and sharply serrate - SIUM
                  JJ Petioles narrow to base, not winged; stipules present
                    K Terminal leaflets none or inconspicuous
                      L Leaves narrow, often worm-like, without tendrils; leaflets crowded - IVESIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaves usually over 2 cm wide, usually prolonged into tendrils; leaflets well spaced
                        M Stems round - VICIA (Not Edible)
                        MM Stems angled or winged - LATHYRUS (Not Edible)
                    KK Terminal leaflet conspicuous
                      L Leaflets serrate or more or less lobed
                        M Petals mainly more than 5 mm long, showy - POTENTILLA
                        MM Petals mainly more than 5 mm long, inconspicuous - HORKELIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaflets entire
                        M Flowers solitary or umbellate, mainly yellow or whitish - LOTUS (Not Edible)
                        MM Flowers in racemes or spikes
                          N Leaflets over 1 cm wide
                            O Leaflets 3 - PSORALEA
                            OO Leaflets 11-19 - GLYCYRRHIZA
                          NN Leaflets less than 1 cm wide
                            O Keel petals not produced into a beak; widespread - ASTRAGALUS (Not Edible)
                            OO Keel petals produced into a beak; eastern Sierra, Inyo and Mono Counties - OXYTROPIS (Not Edible)
                II Petioles not dilated at base; leaves without stipules
                  J Corolla irregular or with white petals less than 2 mm long
                    K Petals white, distinct to base, 1-2 mm long - FLOERKEA
                    KK Petals colored, variously shaped and fused, usually conspicuous
                      L Leaflets entire; stamens inclosed in lower 3 petals - LOTUS (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaflets mainly further lobed; stamens inclosed in upper lip of corolla - PEDICULARIS (Not Edible)
                  JJ Corolla regular; petals 4 or 5, occasionally fused below tips
                    K Petals 4, distinct to base; fruit more or less linear, usually conspicuous
                      L Herbage pubescent; petals yellow - DESCURAINIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Hernage glabrous
                        M Petals yellowish; fruit round or 4 angled in cross section
                          N Stem rooting at nodes - RORIPPA NASTURTIUM-AQUATICUM (Not Edible)
                          NN Stem erect - BARBAREA
                        MM Petals white to rose; fruit flattened in cross section
                          N Stems leafless on lower half; petals 9-14 mm long - DENTARIA CALIFORNICA
                          NN Stems leafy on lower half; petals 3-5 mm long - CARDAMINE
                    KK Petals 5, usually united at base; fruit usually inconspicuous
                      L Flowers solitary drooping; petals separate to base - PAEONIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Flowers clustered; petals united near base
                        M Style 3-cleft
                          N Leaflets spinose; inflorescence with spiny bracts - NAVARRETIA (Not Edible)
                          NN Leaflets not spinose; inflorescence never spiny - POLEMONIUM (Not Edible)
                        MM Style 2-cleft
                          N Leaves, including petioles, 10-20 mm long mainly basal - HYDROPHYLLUM
                          NN Leaves shorter, scattered along stem - PHACELIA

    CC Leaves simple, sometimes deeply pinnately lobed or divided but blade still apparent along midvein
      D Leaves, at lower nodes, opposite or whorled
        E Plants with milky sap
          F Plants annual; leaves occasionally serrate; petals none - EUPHORBIA (Not Edible)
          FF Plants perennial; leaves entire; petals present
            G Stems erect, 3-15 dm high; petals separate, reflexed - ASCLEPIAS
            GG Stems lax, often horizontal in upper portion; flowers urn-shaped - APOCYNUM (Not Edible)
        EE Plants with clear sap
          F Stems 4-angled (with 4 ridges and 4 flat or concave surfaces)
            G Leaves whorled, mainly 4 or more per node - GALIUM
            GG Leaves opposite, 2 per node - LABIATAE
          FF Stems round, without ridges
            G Inflorescence an involucrate head; plants pubescent; leaves mainly over 5 cm long
              H Phyllaries in 1-2 rows
                I Pappus of soft capillary bristles; phyllaries in more or less 2 rows - ARNICA (Not Edible)
                II PAppus none; phyllaries in 1 row - WHITNEYA (Not Edible, RARE)
              HH Phyllaries in 2-7 rows
                I Leaves mainly basal; 10-30 cm long - BALSAMORHIZA
                II Leaves mainly cauline; 3-11 cm long - BRICKELLIA GRANDIFLORA (Not Edible)
            GG Flowers not in heads closely subtended by green bracts
              H Flowers without petaloid parts
                I Plants aquatic
                  J Leaves opposite - CALLITRICHE (Not Edible)
                  JJ Leaves whorled
                    K Submersed leaves pinnatified - MYRIOPHYLLUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Submersed leaves entire - HIPPURIS
                II Plants terrestrial or in trees
                  J Plant a subshrub parasite in trees - PHORADENDRON - Mistletoe (Not Edible)
                  JJ Plants terrestrial
                    K Plants with stinging hairs - URTICA
                    KK Plant without stinging hairs - STELLARIA (Not Edible)
              HH Petaloid parts present, usually conspicuous
                I Stem leaves appearing like several tufts of pubescent, linear leaves - LINANTHUS (Not Edible)
                II Stem leaves not appearing as tufts, usually wider
                  J Stem leaves whorled or in one pair along stem
                    K Sepals 2, rarely 3
                      L Plant from filamentous roots; stem leaves perfoliate - MONTIA
                      LL Plant from corm or thickened roots
                        M Basal leaves none; stem leaves often 3 or more and whorled - LEWISIA TRIPHYLLA
                        MM Basal leaves usually many; stem leaves 2 - CLAYTONIA
                    KK Sepals 4 or more
                      L Sepals 4; corolla speckled - FRASERA
                      LL Sepals 5-7; corolla white to pink
                        M Leaves entire - TRIENTALIS (Not Edible)
                        MM Leaves serrate - CHIMAPHILA UMBELLATA
                  JJ STem leaves in several pairs
                    K Petaloid flower parts cleft to base or nearly so
                      L Sepals 4; petals 2 or 4
                        M Plants aquatic, often rooting at nodes - ELATINE (Not Edible)
                        MM Plants terrestrial, never rooting at nodes
                          N Petals less than 5 mm long, or deeply cleft if longer
                            O Leaves 1-4 cm wide, more or less ovate; petals 2 - CIRACAEA (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves less than 1 cm wide; petals 4 or none - STELLARIA
                          NN Petals over 5 mm long, never deeply cleft
                            O Leaves with narrow white margins; ovary superior - FRASERA
                            OO Leaves green throughout; ovary inferior - EPILOBIUM
                      LL Sepals 2 or 5-7; petals 5-7
                        M Sepals 2br>                           N Annual with filiform roots; Tulare County, rare - MONTIA FUNSTONII (Not Edible, RARE)
                          NN Perennial from corm or with runners; widespread - CLAYTONIA
                        MM Sepals 5-7
                          N Petals yellow or yellow-orange
                            O Leaves 5-12 cm long - LYSIMACHIA (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves less than 3 cm long
                              P Stamens many; leaves several-veined from base - HYPERICUM (Not Edible)
                              PP Stamens 5; leaves 1-veined from base - SCLEROLINON
                          NN Petals white, greenish or bluish; sometimes lacking
                            O Petals 8-10 mm long, never notched - SWERTIA (Not Edible)
                            OO Petals usually shorter, if longer notched at tip - CARYOPHYLLACEAE - Pink Family (Not Edible) except for STELLARIA
                    KK Petaloid flower parts united at base into a conspicuous tube
                      L Sepals red, purple, or less than 2 mm long and inconspicuous
                        M Leaves often lobed; flowers white
                          N Leaves usually pinnately parted; stems erect - VALERIANA
                          NN Leaves often mitten-shaped; stems lax - SYMPHORICARPOS (Not Edible)
                        MM Leaves mainly entire; flowers usually pinkish to purple
                          N Leaves more or less glabrous
                            O Leaves lanceolate, less than 1 cm wide - KELLOGGIA (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves roundish, 2-4 cm wide - CYCLADENIA (Not Edible)
                          NN Leaves densely hairy, oval to elliptical
                            O Flowers pinkish; rare, Tulare County - ABRONIA (Not Edible, RARE)
                            OO Flowers red; widespread - ZAUSCHNERIA (Not Edible)
                      LL Sepals green, more than 2 mm long
                        M Corolla irregular, the lobes not all identical
                          N Flowers in long spikes, purplich; below 4500' - VERBENA (Not Edible)
                          NN Flowers not in spikes; widespread
                            O Sepals distinct to base; flowers white - GRATIOLA (Not Edible)
                            OO Sepals united at base; flowers usually colored
                              P Corolla appearing 4-lobed
                                Q Stamens hidden in pouch-like 5th lobe on lower side of corolla - COLLINSIA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Stamens 2, conspicuous; upper lip of corolla irregularly 1-lobed - VERONICA
                              PP Corolla definitely 5-lobed
                                Q Corolla brownish, mainly 5-7 mm long; leaves coarsely toothed - SCROPHULARIA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Corolla rarely brownish, mainly 10-50 mm long; leaves mainly entire
                                  R Stigmas 2, flat; stamens 4; flowers often yellow - MIMULUS
                                  RR Stigma 1, capitate; stamens 5, 1 anther-less and sterile; flowers rarely yellow - PENSTEMON (Not Edible)
                        MM Corolla regular, all lobes identical
                          N Herbage glabrous
                            O Corolla blue or white, never rose - GENTIANA (Not Edible)
                            OO Corolla rose with some yellow or white
                              P Leaves thick with revolute margins - KALMIA (Not Edible)
                              PP Leaves tin, flat - CENTAURIUM (Not Edible)
                          NN Herbage pubescent
                            O Leaves serrate or lobed
                              P Leaves more or less serrate on distal half - LINNAEA (Not Edible)
                              PP Leaves mainly palmately or pinnately lobed - NEMOPHILA (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves entire
                              P Corolla less than 5 mm long, white - PLAGIOBOTHRYS (Not Edible)
                              PP Corolla over 10 mm long, white, pink, or violet
                                Q Leaves ovate; style 2-cleft - DRAPERIA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Leaves linear to lanceolate; style 3-cleft - PHLOX (Not Edible)

      DD Leaves alternate or basal, occasionally lowermoset opposite
        E Plants aquatic
          F Leaves more than 5 cm long, entire
            G Leaves peltate without deep notch - BRASENIA
            GG Leaves with notch reaching top or summit of petiole - NUPHAR
          FF Leaves less than 5 cm long; or if more, then with several lobes
            G Leafy stem 3 -40 cm high; petals mainly blue; Sierra County north - DOWNINGIA (Not Edible)
            GG Leaves all basal; petals whitish; widespread
              H Stolons present; leaves oblong to elliptic - LIMOSELLA (Not Edible)
              HH Stolons none; leaves linear; rare - SUBULARIA (Not Edible, RARE)
        EE Plants terrestrial
          F Plants with spine-tipped leaves or bracts
            G Flowers clustered in spiny heads
              H Leaves linear or with linear lobes
                I Heads white, woolly; sepal-tips spinescent - ERIASTRUM (Not Edible)
                II Heads more or less glabrous; bracts with linear spine-tipped lobes - NAVARRETIA (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves or lobes wider
                I Herbage usually white, wooly; plants thistle-like - CIRSIUM
                II Hergabe glabrous - ERYNGIUM (Not Edible)
            GG Flowers not in spiny heads; leaves spiny or spine-tipped
              H Leaves broad with many spines along margins - ARGEMONE (Not Edible)
              HH Leaves of leaf-lobes linear, spine-tipped
                I Leaves palmately lobed; petals conspicuous - LEPTODACTYLON (Not Edible)
                II Leaves linear; petals none - SALSOLA (Not Edible)
          FF Plants without spines or spine-tipped leaves
            G Flowers in involucrate heads, often sunflower- or dandelion-like - COMPOSITAE
            GG Flowers not in head subtended by many bracts
              H Plants with membranous stipules surrounding stem above base of leaves
                I Stems grooved; flowers often brownish in compact terminal clusters - RUMEX
                II Stems not grooved
                  J Leaves mainly basal, roundish - OXYRIA
                  JJ Leaves various, never basal and roundish; plants often reddish - POLYGONUM
              HH Plants without stipules or stipules surrounding stem above leaf bases
                I Flowers with 4 (sometimes 2) equal sized and more or less distinct petals
                  J Sepals and/or petals reflexed (rarely not so in Gayophytum)
                    K Stems capillary; flowers small, white, axillary - GAYOPHYTUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Stems stouter or none; flowers mainly conspicuous, if small then yellow
                      L Petals reflexed: leaves all basal - DODECATHEON
                      LL Petals not reflexed; stem leaves usually present
                        M Petals yellow, aging red - OENOTHERA
                        MM Petals mainly purplish - CLARKIA
                  JJ Neither sepals nor petals reflexed
                    K Sepals 2; petals not lobed - CALYPTRIDIUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Sepals 4, green
                      L Ovary superior; petals not lobed - CRUCIFERAE
                      LL Ovary inferior; petals often lobed
                        M Leaves usually ovate, petioled; below 5000' - HETEROGAURA (Not Edible)
                        MM Leaves usually narrow, more or less sessile; widespread
                          N Mainly perennial; seeds with tuft or hair at one end - EPILOBIUM
                          NN Annual; seeds without tuft of hair - BOISDUVALIA (Not Edible)
                II Flowers 5-merous (sometimes 3 or 6-merous), sometimes flowers irregular and/or petals united at base or petals lacking
                  J Leaves modified for catching insects; plants in wet areas
                    K Leaves covered with long, stout, sticky hairs - DROSERA (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves erect, cobra shaped with glabrous upper section - DARLINGTONIA (Not Edible)
                  JJ Leaves not modified for catching insects
                    K Leaves palmately lobed or peltate
                      L Leaves peltate - PELTIPHYLLUM
                      LL Leaves not peltate
                        M Stems with tendrils opposite the leaves
                          N Stems more or less woody; fruit smooth - VITIS
                          NN Stems herbaceous; fruit spiny - MARAH (Not Edible)
                        MM Stems without tendrils
                          N Flowers conspicuously irregular
                            O Sepals and petals not spurred; stems stout, 5-20 dm high - ACONITUM (Not Edible)
                            OO Flowers with a conspicuous spur; plants usually shorter
                              P Flowers solitary; petals yellow, the lower spurred - VIOLA
                              PP Flowers in racemes; petals usually blue-purple; upper sepal spurred - DELPHINIUM (Not Edible)
                          NN Flowers regular
                            O Petals yellow
                              P Flowers in compound umbels; below 4500' - SANICULA CRASSICAULIS (Not Edible)
                              PP Flowers usually solitary; widespread in moist habitats - RANUNCULUS (Not Edible)
                            OO Petals white, pink, greenish, purplish, or lacking
                              P Leaves small, divided into oblong or linear segments; petals united at base
                                Q Leaves more or less forklike with parallel oblong lobes; Lassen Peak - COLLOMIA LARSENII (Not Edible)
                                QQ Leaves various with linear lobes; widespread - ALLOPHYLLUM (Not Edible)
                              PP Leaves usually over 2 cm wide, often merely bluntly lobed; petals distinct to base or none
                                Q Leaves without stipules; petals often cleft
                                  R Leaves over 5 cm wide
                                    S Petals none; leaves 10-20 cm wide - TRAUTVETTERIA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Petals cleft; leaves 5-10 cm wide - TELLIMA (Not Edible)
                                  RR Leaves less than 6 cm wide
                                    S Petals greenish
                                      T Petals mainly pennately cleft; petioles hairy - MITELLA (Not Edible)
                                      TT Petals entire; petioles glabrous - BOLANDRA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Petals white to pinkish
                                      T Petals entire; leaves shallowly lobed; above 11,000 - - SAXIFRAGA DEBILIS (Not Edible)
                                      TT Petals usually cleft; leaves usually deeply divided; below 11,000 - LITHOPHRAGMA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Leaves with stipules; petals never cleft
                                  R Leaves mainly basal, on long petioles; petals white, 2-7 mm long
                                    S Flowers 5-10 in inflorescence; sepals 3-4 mm long - BOLANDRA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Flowers many in inflorescence; sepals 1-2 mm long - HEUCHERA
                                  RR Leaves mainly cauline; petals pinkish, 5-15 mm long
                                    S Stamens united into tube at base; pubescence stellate - SIDALCEA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Stamens separate to base; pubescence unbranched - GERANIUM (Not Edible)
                    KK Leaves not lobed or pinnately so
                      L Leaves pinnately lobed or stamens hidden in upper corolla lip
                        M Flowers irregular; stamens inclosed with a narrow folded upper lip of the corolla
                          N Plants annual
                            O Calyx forming a single piece split almost to base ventrally - CORDYLANTHUS (Not Edible)
                            OO Calyx 4-cleft or 2-cleft and half 2 lobed - ORTHOCARPUS (Not Edible)
                          NN Plants perennial
                            O Leaves pinnatifid into many small segments or occasionally simple and dentate - PEDICULARIS (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves entire or with 1 to few entire lobes - CASTILLEJA
                        MM Flowers regular; stamens free and usually conspicuous
                          N Herbage glabrous or subglabrous; petals none or less than 5 mm long
                            O Stem none; leaves all basal; petals present - PODISTERA (Not Edible)
                            OO Stem conspicuous, more or less leafy; petals none
                              P Stem stout, over 1 m high - DATISCA (Not Edible)
                              PP Stem 2-6 dm high - CHENOPODIUM BOTRYS (Not Edible)
                          NN Herbage pubescent; petals present and over 5 mm long
                            O Leaves sessile; ovary inferior MENTZELIA
                            OO Leaves mainly petioled; ovary superior
                              P Style 2-cleft; leaves mainly pinnate into broad lobes; corolla mainly less than 10 mm long
                                Q Inflorescence spherical; leaves mainly basal, 10-20 cm long - HYDROPHYLLUM
                                QQ Inflorescence usually elongate; leaves mainly cauline, smaller - PHACELIA
                              PP Style 3-cleft; leaves bipinnate; corolla mainly more than 10 mm long
                                Q Stem leaves usually 3-lobed with middle lobe the longest - ALLOPHYLLUM (Not Edible)
                                QQ Stem leaves pinnately lobed
                                  R Annuals; corolla mainly violet or yellow - GILIA (Not Edible)
                                  RR Perennials; corolla mainly red or white - IPOMOPSIS (Not Edible)
                      LL Leaves serrate or entire, not lobed
                        M Plants with acrid milky sap
                          N Petals present on at least some flowers; sap watery, pale white
                            O Leaves cordate-clasping at base - HETEROCODON (Not Edible)
                            OO Leaves sessile to long-petioled, never cordate - CAMPANULA (Not Edible)
                          NN Petals none; sap bright white and thick
                            O Plants glabrous - EUPHORBIA (Not Edible)
                            OO Plants with stellate pubescence - EREMOCARPUS (Not Edible)
                        MM Plants with clear sap
                          N Leaves glabrous or subglabrous or if pubescent then leaves all basal
                            O Flowers irregular
                              P Stems brownish, capillary, more or less naked; flowers small - NEMOCLADUS (Not Edible)
                              PP Stems green, stouter, leafy; flowers showy and strongly irregular
                                Q Leaves short petioled; ovary superior; mainly below 5000' - POLYGALA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Leaves sessile; ovary inferior
                                  R Flowers sessile, with long often twisted ovary; below 5500' - DOWNINGIA (Not Edible)
                                  RR Flowers on pedicels; ovary short; above 5000' - PORTERELLA (Not Edible)
                            OO Flowers regular
                              P Petaloid flower parts present and united at base
                                Q Leaves all basal
                                  R Leaves less than 2 cm long; corolla 1-2 mm long - ANDROSACE (Not Edible)
                                  RR Leaves 1-20 cm long; corolla obvious, mainly over 5 mm long
                                    S Petals reflexed; flowers nodding - DODECATHEON
                                    SS Petals spreading; flowers erect
                                      T Leaves entire; plants herbaceous throughout - HESPEROCHIRON (Not Edible)
                                      TT Leaves dentate; plant usually woody at base - PRIMULA
                                QQ Stem leaves present, occasionally subglabrous
                                  R Leaves 1-4 cm long, subsessile
                                    S Leaves linear; flowers funnelform - GILIA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Leaves elliptic; flowers urn-shaped
                                      T Leaves aromatic - GAULTHERIA
                                      TT Leaves not aromatic - VACCINIUM
                                  RR Leaves 4-12 cm long, the lower long-petioled
                                    S Leaves mainly basal; flowers more or less erect, star-shaped - SWERTIA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Leaves mainly cauline, flowers drooping - MERTENSIANA (Not Edible)
                              PP Petaloid parts distinct to base or none
                                Q Petaloid parts none or flowers minute and inconspicuous
                                  R Leaves broad, heart-shaped; flower on ground below leaves - ASARUM
                                  RR Leaves usually narrow, not heart-shaped; flowers not on ground
                                    S Leaves linear, grass-like - MYOSURUS (Not Edible)
                                    SS Leaves lanceolate to ovate, often white-crusty
                                      T Leaves subsessile, entire; inflorescence terminal, many-flowered - COMANDRA
                                      TT Leaves mainly petioled, often hastate or dentate; inflorescence axillary
                                        U Calyx of 1 sepal; mainly below 5000' - MONOLEPIS
                                        UU Calyx 3-5-parted; widespread - CHENOPODIUM
                                QQ Petaloid parts present; flowers conspicuous
                                  R Sepals 2, sometimes more and petaloid (i.e., green sepals none); leaves entire
                                    S Petaloid segments mainly small; flowers mainly in dense clusters - ERIOGONUM
                                    SS Petaloid segments 5-15 mm long; flowers never densely clustered
                                      T Stems more or less thick at base; roots fleshy - LEWISIA
                                      TT Stems slender at base; root thin
                                        U Petals white; leaves linear and mainly on the stem - MONTIA LINEARIS
                                        UU Petals with pink veins or totally pink to red; leaves mainly wider
                                          V Basal leaves many, 1-3 cm long; petals usually white with pink veins - CLAYTONIA PARVIFOLIA
                                          VV Leaves mainly along stem, 2-8 cm long; petals usually red - CALANDRINIA
                                  RR Sepals 5, green
                                    S Leaves all basal
                                      T Flowers solitary
                                        U Leaves serrate - CALTHA
                                        UU Leaves entire - PARNASSIA (Not Edible)
                                      TT Flowers variously grouped
                                        U Leaves evergreen, more or less leathery; style 1 - PYROLA (Not Edible)
                                        UU Leaves dying annually; styles 2 - SAXIFRAGA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Stem leaves present
                                      T Stems and leaves fleshy - CRASSULACEAE
                                      TT Stems and leaves thin
                                        U Petals yellow, glossy; stamens many - RANUNCULUS (Not Edible)
                                        UU Petals white to blue or pink; stamens 5 or 10; leaves entire, sessile
                                          V Petals blue, about 10 mm long; leaves only slightly divergent from stem - LINUM
                                          VV Leaves mainly basal; petioles 3-12 cm long - SAXIFRAGA MERTENSIANA (Not Edible)
                          NN Leaves conspicuously hairy, never all basal
                            O Ovary 4-lobed; fruit 4 nutlets; leaves entire
                              P Flowers yellow; below 5000'
                                Q Corolla 8-10 mm long; nutlets dark; widespread - AMSINCKIA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Corolla 12-18 mm long; nutlets white; Placer county north - LITHOSPERMUM (Not Edible)
                              PP Flowers mainly white, blue or pink, never totally yellow
                                Q Small plants mainly less than 3 dm high; corolla white
                                  R Attachment scar on nutlet flush with or indented into surface - CRYPTANTHA (Not Edible)
                                  RR Attachment scar on nutlet raised above surface - PLAGIOBOTHRYS (Not Edible)
                                QQ Well developed plants usually over 3 dm high; corolla usually blue
                                  R Nutlets widely spreading, evenly covered with 1 mm long prickles - CYNOGLOSSUM (Not Edible)
                                  RR Nutlets appressed and usually flattened on interior surface; prickles longer and often unevenly distributed - HACKELIA (Not Edible)
                            OO Ovary not lobed; fruit not 4 nutlets; leaves often serrate
                              P Petals distinct to base or absent
                                Q Pubescence with some branched hairs; leaves with small stipules
                                  R Petals yellowish; flowers solitary or in small clusters - SIDA (Not Edible)
                                  RR Petals reddish; flowers in open racemes - SIDALCEA REPTANS (Not Edible)
                                QQ Pubescence unbranched; leaves without stipules
                                  R Petaloid flower parts none; flowers in dense axillary clusters; mainly east Sierra Nevada - ATRIPLEX
                                  RR Petaloid flower parts conspicuous; inflorescence usually terminal; widespread
                                    S Sepals 5, green; petals usually 5, yellow; mainly below 7000' - MENTZELIA
                                    SS Sepals 6, petaloid; petals none; widespread - ERIOGONUM
                              PP Petaloid segments united at least near base
                                Q Plants erect, usually over 1 m high; leaves over 5 cm long
                                  R Inflorescence dense, 1-3 dm long, 2-4 cm thick; flowers yellow - VERBASCUM (Not Edible)
                                  RR Inflorescence open; flowers not yellow; leaves more or less foul smelling
                                    S Flowers white, tubular; widespread - NICOTIANA
                                    SS Flowers purple, funnelform; Fresno County south - TURRICULA (Not Edible)
                                QQ Plants trailing to erect; leaves usually less than 5 cm long
                                  R Style entire; herbage glabrous to pubescent
                                    S Leaves hastate; plant trailing; fruit a capsule - CONVOLVULUS (Not Edible)
                                    SS Leaves mainly ovate and entire; plant usually erect; fruit a berry
                                      T Corolla whiteish; petioles winged, 15-30 mm long - CHAMAESARACHA (Not Edible)
                                      TT Corolla deep violet with yellow center; petioles 5-10 mm long - SOLANUM (Not Edible)
                                  RR Style 2- or 3-cleft; herbage often glandular-pubescent
                                    S Style 3-cleft; flowers pink to white or purplish - COLLOMIA (Not Edible)
                                    SS Style 2-cleft; flowers bluish to violet
                                      T Stamens equally inserted, subequal in length - PHACELIA
                                      TT Stamens unequally inserted or unequal in length - NAMA (Not Edible)

To Dichotomous Key / Main Plant Index / Main Page

These keys have been made possible by the support of Norman F. Weeden and his permission to use the dichotomous keys in his book "A Sierra Nevada Flora".

BackCountry Rangers